Spiritual Discipline: Who Is the Greatest?

Yes, I know, this post is late. It should have been up about four days ago. Oh well. Anyway, today the topic is leadership. What sort of advice on leadership is found in the Bible? (Hey there, Dominants, you might want to pay attention.) There are a lot of lessons about leadership in the Bible, but I am going to focus on a pair of passages from the gospels. And just so you do not think the Spiritual Discipline column is somehow unrelated to the rest of the blog, I believe these passages have a bearing on how Dominants should handle leadership within D/s relationships.

Let us begin with the first scripture.

Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in the seat of Moses. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do; but do not do according to their works, for they preach and do not practice. For they tie up burdens which are heavy and difficult to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. Everything they do, they do to be seen by men: they make their phylacteries broad and the fringes of their garments long. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, deferential greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called upon by people, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’

But you—you are not to be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your ‘Father’; for One is your Father,  and He is in heaven. Nor are you to be called ‘leaders’; for One is your Leader, the Christ. And the greatest among you shall be your servant, for whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

Matthew 23:1–12 (XAV)

Notice what Jesus says about the spiritual leaders, the scribes and Pharisees. When He says they gave people heavy burdens, He is talking about the rules and laws they forced people to obey. And they liked to be seen by other people as pious and righteous. A phylactery is a small box containing scriptures that would be worn, one on the forehead and one on the left arm or hand. (This practice comes from instructions in the Old Testament, but I will speak of that another time.) The fringes were basically tassels that Jews were supposed to wear to remind themselves to follow God’s commandments. (You can see an example of this in the movie “Fiddler on the Roof.”) Jesus is saying here that the Pharisees made their phylacteries larger than normal and their fringes longer than normal so that other people would notice them. Jesus is also saying that the Pharisees sought out the social privileges they believed their position deserved. They sought places of honor at feasts and in synagogues, and to have other people treat them with reverence.

So what does Jesus advise His followers to do? Don’t act like that. Don’t seek preferential treatment. Don’t insist on titles. Don’t strut about making a show of your greatness. Be humble, Jesus says.

When you are good, when you are doing what is right, people will see that. You won’t need to show off. Indeed, if you need to show off, chances are that you’re not that good. Later In Matthew 23, Jesus accuses the Pharisees of appearing clean on the outside and being dirty and rotten on the inside.

What is the point here? Integrity matters. Don’t be a hypocrite. What you preach, practice. For you Dominants out there, if you insist your submissive have discipline, you better have it too. If you insist your submissive conduct herself with decorum, then you should be on your best behavior. That you are a Dominant is not an excuse to abuse your position. It is not a reason to excuse bad behavior on your part.

But, some of you might be saying, the Dominant is the one in charge. He is the one in control. He has to make the rules. Indeed. But what should be your attitude in this? Let us look at the second scripture for this lesson.

Now an argument arose among them—which of them should be considered the greatest. But Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’ But not so with you; rather, the one who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and the one who rules as he who serves. For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table, or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? Yet I am among you as the one who serves.”

Luke 22:24–27 (XAV)

Jesus was talking to His disciples. They were having one of several arguments the gospels relate about which of them would get to be the greatest. And Jesus had to once again point out that they had it all wrong. Being a leader is not about exercising authority over others. Being a leader is about serving others.

(I could also take this scripture as a starting point to talk about libertarian things, but that is a whole other post, and I will save it for another time.)

Being a leader, a Dominant, a manager, a boss, et cetera, is not about controlling other people for the sake of controlling other people. Not even if you believe yourself to be a benefactor, i.e. someone who is trying to control another for that person’s own good. Being a leader is about serving. Being a Dominant in a D/s relationship means serving your submissive, helping her become the best submissive, the best person that she can be.

But a Dominant is supposed to establish rules and administer punishment. Yes. But he is not supposed to establish arbitrary rules that create a burden difficult to bear. The goal is not to oppress the submissive, but to buoy, inspire and strengthen the submissive.

But a manger has to get people to do the work that needs to be done. Yes. But not by burdening people with rules and regulations that hinder them. Rather, by finding ways to help them get the work done.

Am I promoting topping from the bottom? Am I saying leaders should not make rules or decisions? Not at all. I am talking about being humble and remembering that leadership is a service. Leadership is a responsibility to help and to build up, not to hinder and hold down.

Leadership is not about being seen by others. Leadership is about doing for others.

But this is not just about being a Dominant or a manger or some such. This is also about how we act with everyone else. Remember the previous Spiritual Discipline post? Who is your neighbor? Everyone. Who is Jesus calling us to serve? Every person with whom we interact.

Being a good Dominant is not about having the best submissive or the loudest voice or the biggest penis. Being a good Dominant is about being a good person, to one’s submissive and to everyone else.

Being a good submissive (you didn’t think I forgot you were reading this, did you submissives?) is not about having the most graceful kneeling motion or the softest voice or the prettiest body. Being a good submissive is about being a good person, to one’s Dominant and to everyone else.

Here is a simple assignment for you Dominants out there. Have your submissive wash your feet, and then get down on your knees and wash her feet.

Have a conversation with the submissive about how you, O Dominant, can help your submissive get her tasks done.

Have a conversation, O manager, about what the employees under you need to get their work done better and more efficiently.

Have you served your neighbor today?

2 Responses to “Spiritual Discipline: Who Is the Greatest?”

  1. Wow, very well written. I could feel your silent strength and gentleness. Wish more people would understand this lesson. Jesus displayed the best example in utilizing being a leader who served his people with grace and humility.
    Strive everyday to be your greatest. If blessed enough to have a partner to share in this journey,promise each day to make them into the best person they can become.
    Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengths me.” One of my favorite of many verses. I enjoyed your article!

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